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India—Public Policy

by Rucha Bhate

April 2010—Owing to an imbalance between the demand and the supply of labor, child labor is a grave and widespread problem in India covering a number of sectors, including carpet making and the Beedi industry.

India is currently the second most populated country in the world, second only to China. According to the 2002 Census:

  • There are 12.66 million working children under the age of fourteen years in India.
  • A vast majority of working children are outside the scope of formal industry sectors because they reside in rural areas, working predominantly in agricultural activities such as fan making, livestock rearing, forestry and fisheries.
  • Nine out of ten working children work within a family setting.

India has followed an aggressive, proactive strategy to tackle this crisis by enforcing constitutional, statutory and developmental measures targeted to eliminate child labor.

  • India was the first country to join the International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC), the global initiative launched by the International Labor Organization in December 1991.
  • The Child Labor (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 of India prevents the employment of children below the age of 14 in factories, mines and in other forms of hazardous employment, and regulates the working conditions of children in other occupations.
  • The Government’s current INDUS project—a project for Prevention & Elimination of Child Labor in identified hazardous sectors of India—potentially identifies and withdraws an estimated 80,000 children from hazardous occupations and gradually rehabilitates them through transitional education or vocational training.

Workers’ Education was introduced in India’s second, five-year plan (1956-61), with the understanding that harmonious relations between labor and management were critical for successful plan implementation.

  • At present, the capacity of skill development in India is around 3.1 million persons per year.
  • India has set a target of imparting skills to 500 million people by 2022.
  • Approximately 900 employment exchanges strive to facilitate a more efficient and timely matching of labor demand and supply.

Interestingly, though, India does not yet have a uniform nationwide minimum wage. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act of 2004 was enacted to safeguard the fundamental right to work by providing guaranteed employment at statutory minimum wage to at least one adult per household in rural areas of India.

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